Defense Officials Emphasize Lab Modernization, Acquisition Reform Among Budget Priorities

During a House Committee hearing, Defense officials discussed the imperative for more advanced research, development, and deployment of emerging technologies within the national security agency to see which nations can .

Witnesses from offices within the agency testified on DOD’s budgetary needs before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Cyber, Innovative Technologies, and Information Systems on Thursday.

Modernizing the physical infrastructure within Defense’s laboratories is a major priority for the agency.

“First thing I would do to help you get more MILCON money to help out in our lab and test infrastructure,” Heidi Shyu, the Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering testified. “I think that piece is absolutely critical for us to put some additional funding against.”

Shyu highlighted a more specific need within Naval laboratories to modernize their electromagnetic and cybersecurity countermeasures, to better evaluate emerging digital threats facing networks today. She estimated that this would require roughly $ 500 million in federal funding.

Subcommittee Chairman Jim Langevin, DR.I., noted that he was surprised by the lack of funding DOD received from Congress in its prior budget allocations.

“I have to say that it is shocking to see a massive backlog in laboratory investment, more than $ 5.7 billion in the latest Congress report,” he said. “These challenges affect not only the pace and breadth of innovation, but also our ability to attract and retain the top tier talent that we depend on.”

Hiring and retaining a strong workforce also relies on the need for more advanced infrastructure. Witness Paul Mann, acting acting assistant secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, Test and Evaluation, said modern facilities are a major draw for experts in STEM fields when it comes to choosing a workplace.

“While we’re balancing all the investment in the S&T [science and technology] portfolio, attracting the world’s best and brightest, getting them here and unleashing their talent for decades. We want them to enjoy working in modern facilities. ” They say.

It has always been updated with key sectors and companies that are “always challenging,” and that updated labs are key to successful warfighting projects.

“The laboratories that these professionals can execute their mission are going to do to maintain our enduring advantage,” they said.

Shyu clarified that Defense research looks into technologies including biotechnology, advanced materials, quantum science and hypersonics. It has been added that the agency has not yet received any funding from cyber technologies.

“Some companies can get venture capital money to help out, some companies are not able to do that because they can build a component that goes into a system, right? So they’re looking for capital, ”Shyu said. “We’re in the process of trying to figure out how to help them do the rapid transition.”

Defense is working on internally cultivating a program to help fund research and prototype development. Shyu said this will launch first within the Air Force and ideally move across the entire Department of Defense.

“This really helps the small business get a lot more funding to continue to develop the prototypes and mature to the face,” she said. “They can transition. So we’re in the process of creating and standing up this office right now. “

Within Air Force leadership, Kristen Baldwin, the deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology and Engineering, cited the internal Air Force study that outlined the bureaucratic hurdles Defense procurement and acquisition face.

“It is not just a focus on attracting those small businesses and investing in innovation, but rather the funding that is required to transition from a small business S&T contract into a program of record,” she said. “I would just say that the acquisition process is the broken process.”

The “valley of death” between concept and prototypes.

“We have a set of major recommendation findings,” Baldwin said regarding the Air Force’s study. “Number one is tech transition funding to cross the valley of death.”

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